Polyphenols are beneficial micronutrients that are present in many foods (1). They can help to promote healing in a variety of ways throughout the body, too.
From decreasing inflammation to lowering the risk of disease and much more, polyphenols are potent micronutrients that everyone can benefit from (2). Polyphenols are anti-oxidants, which have powerful disease-fighting effects. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress in the body, which helps the body heal faster (3). Antioxidants are also associated with a lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (4).
While many foods have polyphenols, the amount varies greatly based on how the food is grown, how ripe it is, and how it is stored. It can also drastically vary based on how the food is prepared or cooked (5).
Summary: Polyphenols are beneficial micronutrients present in many foods. They are powerful anti-oxidants that help reduce oxidative stress in the body, promoting healing and reduced risk of chronic disease.
Table of Contents
Foods High in Polyphenols
Polyphenols in food are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. Do you think you are getting enough food high in polyphenols? Check out the list below to see what foods are high in polyphenols and see where you can benefit from adding more to your diet.
Many fruits are high in polyphenols, with a specific emphasis on berries (6).
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are the highest in polyphenols (7). These berries are full of potent anti-inflammatory compounds as well, helping to promote a lower risk of many chronic diseases.
Other fruits that are also high in polyphenols include currants, apples, cherries, and plums. Fruit juices like apple and pomegranate juice are also an excellent source of polyphenols (5). These fruits help to support better digestion, lower blood pressure, and minimize the risk of diabetes (7), (8).
Summary: Fruits, especially berries and pomegranates, are especially high in polyphenols. These polyphenols have beneficial antioxidant, digestive, anti-hypertensive, and anti-diabetic effects.
Cocoa can be a powerful health food for a variety of reasons. The high amounts of quality antioxidant polyphenols in cocoa can help to improve cardiovascular health (9).
The different types of polyphenols in cocoa include catechins, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins (10). The high antioxidant properties along with the polyphenols can lower blood pressure and improve metabolic function in the body (11). This helps to promote heart-healing benefits.
Keep in mind that dark chocolate has the highest amount of polyphenols. The higher the percentage of cocoa in the dark chocolate, the more antioxidants and polyphenols there are. Milk chocolate does contains some polyphenols, but not as much as dark chocolate due to its lower cocoa content (12). Do not be afraid to add some cocoa to your diet to gain the many health benefits from the high levels of antioxidants and polyphenol micronutrients.
Summary: Cocoa is another rich source of polyphenols that has beneficial anti-oxidant and disease preventing benefits. Dark chocolate has the highest polyphenol content compared to milk chocolate.
Coffee is one of the most popular beverages across the globe (13). While not everyone can tolerate or want to drink coffee, it has many health benefits.
Coffee beans are high in polyphenols, like chlorogenic acids, that have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties. They can also help to lower blood pressure for those who suffer from hypertension (14).
Even though coffee does have many benefits, it’s not always great for everyone to consume. Coffee can have negative effects on hormone balance, so pregnant women are advised to avoid drinking coffee (15). Enjoying a cup of coffee doesn’t always have to a bad thing. It may even be a good thing for your health.
Summary: Coffee is a popular beverage with a lot of polyphenols that may help prevent chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
4. Beans and Lentils
Many types of beans and lentils are high in polyphenols.
The polyphhenols in beans and lentils have potent health benefits, too. They can significantly lower inflammation and may help prevent diabetes and heart disease. They also have anti-oxidant properties (16) that helps reduce oxidative stress on the body.
Beans are a great source of plant-based protein, too (17). They are a great option for vegans and vegetarians and even carnivores who want to take a break from meat occasionally. Add some protein-packed beans to your diet more often to reap the benefits.
Summary: Beans and lentils are another great source of polyphenols that provide health benefits as well as being a great source of plant-based protein.
Onions are a vegetable you can easily include in your everyday diet. Here are some reasons you may want to start doing so.
They have anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties, and they are rich in health-promoting polyphenols (18). Onions of all kinds pack in a potent punch of antioxidants to free up oxidative stress and decrease inflammation in the body (19).
Onions also high in essential vitamins and minerals, along with the disease-preventing plant-pigment and flavonoid, quercetin (21). Studies in test tubes and animal studies have found that quercetin helps to lower inflammation and boost the immune system (22).
Throw in some white, purple, or yellow onions to your next meal to reap all of the many health benefits.
Summary: Onions are another polyphenol rich foods that are excellent sources of the polyphenol, quercetin. Studies have shown that quercetin helps to reduce inflammation and support the function of the immune system.
Many types of teas are high in beneficial polyphenols, especially black and green tea.
The most common polyphenols in tea belong to the flavonoid group called catechins. Studies have found that the catechins in tea may help prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (23). All kinds of tea have powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, most significantly in green and black tea (24).
Green tea can be a great substitution for those who may be sensitive to the caffeine in coffee. Although some teas, like green and black tea, have caffeine, it is much lower than the amount of caffeine in coffee, so this can be a helpful alternative.
Summary: Tea is another polyphenol rich beverage. Black and green teas contain the highest amounts of polyphenols. Tea also has less caffeine than coffee for those who are sensitive to caffeine.
7. Many Vegetables
There are many vegetables beyond onions that are high in heart-healthy polyphenols. These include artichokes, spinach, and chicory (5). These three vegetables have some of the highest amounts of polyphenols.
Adding some more spinach and artichokes to your diet can have many health benefits beyond just anti-inflammatory polyphenols, too. They are both high in many essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc and vitamin A (25).
Chicory is a type of plant in the dandelion family (26). It can be an easy addition to your diet, too. You can add chicory as a part of a salad or too many other dishes. Many teas also come with added chicory for flavor and additional fiber.
Summary: Vegetables are another source of beneficial polyphenols, although they have fewer amounts compared to fruits. Polyphenol-rich vegetables include chicory, artichokes, and spinach.
Nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts are rich in health-promoting polyphenols (27).
Although other types of nuts also contain trace amounts of polyphenols, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts are the highest in polyphenols. Full of healthy fats, nuts are brain supporting foods (28). Nuts are also a great source of magnesium (29).
You can add any of these nuts to your favorite breakfast like oatmeal, cereal, or even just snack on them for a filling and healthy change. They also make an easy addition to salads and desserts.
Summary: Nuts are another great polyphenol-rich food. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts are the nuts with the highest amounts of polyphenols, and they are also good sources of healthy fat and magnesium.
Polyphenols are in many food groups, but primarily from plant foods. Studies have found that the polyphenols in food can provide anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that may help prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension (30).
Find which polyphenol-containing foods are the best for you from this list and see where you might add them to your diet today. Always speak with your healthcare professional if you are unsure what to eat or to help guide you to better health with food.